Although we see it coming every single year, the holidays always seem to catch us- and our wallets-by surprise. In fact, this year alone, Americans plan to spend about $983 on holiday shopping alone- not including expenses like travel and time off work. For most of us, this can make or break our budget for the year. But it doesn’t have to be that way! Holidays can be expensive, but they don’t have to be!
Here are a few ways to still have an amazing holiday- without breaking the bank.
1. Set Realistic Expectations
We know you love all of your friends and family, but often there are more of them than there are numbers in your bank account. Trying to purchase something for every single person will result in one of two situations: driving yourself into debt, or getting terrible presents for everyone in an effort to please everyone. You have permission to show discretion when purchasing gifts during the holidays. It’s better all around for a few people to get great, meaningful gifts, than for everyone to get something that they’ll throw away soon after. That’s not to say cut people off- but is there a way you can show you care in a less…financial way? Writing a meaningful and heartfelt card about how you care about them, or how they have supported you can go a long way.
2. Shop Early
Shopping early not only saves you stress, and helps you beat the lines at the store- but also gives you time to think about the gifts you’re giving. It also gives you time to find great deals on items, and comparison shop. There’s nothing worse than buying something, wrapping it up, and then finding it for a much cheaper price somewhere else. Shopping early, also gives you time to online shop and not have to spend extra money on expedited shipping because you didn’t plan ahead. Lastly, it gives your budget room to breathe. Rather than spending all your money at once, you have some time to reevaluate your budget as you go- which will help you be better off financially when all the holiday spending dust has settled.
3. Shop Local
Shopping locally is not only a great way to support your community of artists, musicians and other creatives, but it’s also a wonderful way to bring that community back to your home. Sure, buying a hand-crafted scarf from your local knitting shop will run you more than a mass produced scarf from a big retailer, but you won’t feel the need to supplement it with more and more items to make up for the fact that you purchased one mass produced scarf that someone can get anywhere. Also there’s a story behind it, it shows more consideration and makes a much more memorable gift. One small, well selected item made with care, can run you less, in the long run than lots of cheaply produced baubles that someone can get themselves.
4. Use Your Credit Card wisely
Putting your holiday spending on a credit card can be a terrible idea for many reasons. Studies show that many Americans spend another 6 months paying off the cost incurred on their cards from holiday spending. However, with a little forward planning, this can be avoided entirely. Having a card with rewards points that you have accumulated over the year (like the Amazon card) means you can spend those rewards dollars on gifts, instead of your own money.
5. Be Creative
Creativity and thoughtfulness goes a long way. Remember the reason for the season isn’t blowing your budget on expensive toys for all your family and friends, but to be thankful for their presence in your life. Don’t overlook the little meaningful and intangible gestures that show you care. Maybe instead of buying gifts, you could donate to a charity or go volunteer your time together at a soup kitchen or a clothing drive to help those that don’t have as much as you do. We are always told that experiences are often more memorable than things- maybe this year take that to heart and create great experiences with your loved ones.